OKOK

Odalisque - - Contents - Writ­ten by Blenda Setterwall Klingert Ar­twork by OKOK Pho­to­grap­hy by Manga Min­ja

OKOK: I fe­el li­ke I've stum­bled upon an un­di­sco­ve­red uni­ver­se and to in­ve­sti­ga­te it, I ha­ve been equip­ped with a pen­cil and a ru­ler.

Qu­an­ti­ty works best as a wor­king prin­ci­pal for me, to just di­ve in­to the stream. Du­ring in­ten­se pe­ri­ods I spend ten to twel­ve hours drawing eve­ry day and still fall as­leep with un­fi­nished li­nes in my he­ad. Whi­le I'm wor­king on one pie­ce I get enough ide­as for, li­ke, ten mo­re pie­ces, eve­ry pie­ce ta­kes it on­ward. I ne­ver wait for in­spi­ra­tion!

The­re is an en­ti­re world of li­nes and pat­terns that I ha­ve just be­gun to tra­vel wit­hin and no ti­me in the world to paint it all, so I need to keep at it! I so­me­ti­mes fe­el a bit stres­sed out about that.

I me­et up with Thomas Karl-jo­han Gun­nars­son, ali­as OKOK, at the Cen­tral Sta­tion in Stock­holm. To avo­id the lunch crowds we de­ci­de to walk to a ne­ar­by ho­tel lob­by whe­re OKOK, in­spi­red by Pat­ti Smith’s sto­ri­es about li­fe at the Chel­sea ho­tel in “Just Kids”, car­ri­ed out an art pro­ject a few ye­ars ago, stay­ing at the ho­tel for a month, drawing and cre­a­ting in the lob­by. We sit down, sur­roun­ded by his ear­ly art.

BSK: On the Pat­ti Smith note, I think she wri­tes in the book that she re­a­li­sed she couldn’t be an ar­tist un­less she thought she could shed new light on so­met­hing, and that's when she knew what she had to do. Can you re­la­te to that?

OKOK: I think so. We’re all ma­de up from the sa­me atoms, the rest is just ener­gy. I think the me­a­ning of art and per­haps li­fe in a sen­se is to hand­le the ener­gy that has been de­alt to you, and pass it on through the world in a po­si­ti­ve way. I think that’s what it's all about re­al­ly.

In 2013, OKOK tra­ve­led the world with a full-blown ca­re­er as a ma­na­ger for mu­sic ar­tists, and an im­pres­si­ve pro­fes­sio­nal track re­cord be­hind him in­clu­ding ra­dio shows, mar­ke­ting and a rap ca­re­er of his own. That's when he re­a­li­sed he wan­ted to pur­sue his own cre­a­ti­vi­ty and not just stand be­hind ot­hers. He didn’t ha­ve a plan ex­cept to find the true an­swer to the ques­tion “when I wa­ke

up in the mor­ning, what do I want to do?” The an­swer: to draw.

OKOK: My back­ground is in graf­fiti cul­tu­re, so it wasn’t out of the blue. I’ve been pain­ting all my li­fe. And still, of all the art out the­re, tags are what spe­ak to me the most. Pe­op­le who ha­ve been out the­re wri­ting their na­mes for 20 ye­ars... that's beau­ti­ful to me.

BSK: The way you wri­te your ar­tist na­me, OKOK, sort of re­sem­bles a tag. Do­es it ha­ve anyt­hing to do with that?

OKOK: I’ve ne­ver tag­ged as OKOK, not in the past and not at pre­sent, he­he... but the na­me is in­spi­red by my graf' li­fe I sup­po­se, in the sen­se that I wan­ted an ali­as, and that I wri­te OKOK as a pat­tern that can be re­pe­a­ted end­less­ly li­ke a chain. It al­so has to do with the ener­gy, OKOK has a po­si­ti­ve vi­be, it’s “thumbs up!”, it’s “let’s do this!” You know? And sin­ce I lo­ve the idea of re­pe­ti­tion and copy­ing, it amu­ses me that pe­op­le say “OKOK” eve­ryday, per­haps wit­hout even no­ti­cing it. For ex­amp­le, so­me­o­ne might ask me what I do, and I’ll say “I’m an ar­tist, I ma­ke ab­stract art” and they’ll go “ah, ok ok…”

BSK: You art is non­fi­gu­ra­ti­ve, but I wro­te down so­me things that ca­me to mind for me when I looked through your port­fo­lio – things li­ke DNA spi­rals, spa­cecraft, ga­laxi­es, ro­ads that cross, wood­work, string the­o­ry... it go­es on li­ke that with dif­fe­rent sorts of clas­sic, eter­nal pat­terns.

OKOK: The­re you ha­ve it. My work is ab­stract and non­fi­gu­ra­ti­ve, but I lo­ve it when pe­op­le see things in it. The black­ness in my pie­ces is of­ten per­cei­ved as the uni­ver­se, a gre­at abyss. At the sa­me ti­me the li­nes are all mat­he­ma­tics. I think in a way what I draw al­re­a­dy ex­ists! I just chan­nel it, I just portray it by ta­king the ti­me to tra­vel tho­se spa­ces and ma­ke it in­to so­met­hing we can look at. That do­esn’t me­an I come up with it or un­derstand it. I me­an, a hu­man be­ing has fi­ve sen­ses. If you put your foot in front of an ant on the ground, the ant do­esn’t per­cei­ve enough to un­derstand that “this is a hu­man foot, I must walk around it”. It’s just ig­no­rant of hu­mans to as­su­me that we’re at the top of the lad­der of per­cep­tion – we’re the ant in re­la­tion to so­met­hing el­se. I ne­ver sat down and de­ci­ded to “cre­a­te art”, it’s just what ca­me out! This is as much an ex­plo­ra­tion for me as it is for the vi­ewer.

BSK: Your per­cep­tion of be­ing an ar­tist is in­spi­ring, it's qui­te far from the old com­mon myth of a taun­ted ge­ni­us ty­pe – you keep re­fer­ring to qu­an­ti­ty, re­pe­ti­tion, copy­ing, not try­ing to un­derstand it, po­si­ti­ve ener­gy...

OKOK: Ye­ah, I don’t come from the “art world”, I just hap­pen to ma­ke art. It’s fun to an­noy the pe­op­le who ha­ve a fix­ed idea on what “art” needs to be. So­me pe­op­le ha­ve bug­ged me about using a ru­ler, li­ke “Try do­ing that free hand” and I'm li­ke “Why would I, ever? It would be such a was­te of ti­me!” I li­ke the com­mer­ce, I li­ke mar­ke­ting. I would ma­ke my own OKOK crisp bre­ad if I could, with a re­al­ly nice pac­kage of cour­se. I ac­tu­al­ly ha­ve a recur­ring fan­ta­sy about buil­ding ro­bots that cre­a­te art. My art. They would be pro­gram­med to draw in my ex­act sty­le, just draw all day long. Not ne­ces­sa­rily to cre­a­te he­aps and he­aps of art, may­be eve­ry drawing would go straight in­to a pa­per sh­red­der, and the sh­reds would be ma­de in­to pa­per pulp and then pa­per again… li­ke a com­ple­te cir­c­le of eter­nal art… Just need a bud­get!

Af­ter the in­ter­vi­ew, OKOK was di­a­gno­sed with car­pal tun­nel syndro­me in his right hand and won’t be ab­le to con­ti­nue ma­king his li­ne-ba­sed art for the fo­re­se­e­ab­le futu­re. Ti­me will tell what will hap­pen af­ter the ope­ra­tion and muscu­lar re­hab, but he’s cur­rent­ly wor­king on new te­ch­ni­ques.

OKOK: The first days af­ter I was di­a­gno­sed we­re re­al­ly dark. To ha­ve found my te­ch­ni­que, my ex­pres­sion, my wor­king mo­rals, and then ha­ve this hap­pen, it wo­re me down a bit psycho­lo­gi­cal­ly. But af­ter wee­ping for two days, I de­ci­ded it was ti­me to buck­le down and se­arch for new te­ch­ni­ques. Now I’m drawing with my left hand, pho­to­grap­hing and ma­king plans to work with le­go! The who­le thing is for­cing me to evol­ve.

In the small talk sur­rounding our in­ter­vi­ew OKOK told me he was ex­ci­ted to con­quer new te­ch­ni­ques li­ke ma­king in­stal­la­tions or using co­lours. He just didn’t know when the ti­me would come. He al­so men­tio­ned two tattoos he had, one which re­ad “Gil­la lä­get” (which could per­haps trans­la­te to “De­al with it”, but with a po­si­ti­ve ring to it). The ot­her says “I think I know how to sol­ve this pro­blem”. That be­ing sa­id, OKOK is ve­ry li­kely to de­al with it in an in­te­re­s­ting way.

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